Minnesota, like many states across the country, is gradually trying to loosen the restrictions on its citizens so that we can try to return to some level of normalcy.  Most recently, Gov. Tim Walz (D-MN) let his “shelter in place” executive order lapse.  This means that a broad mix of businesses, non-profits and government agencies can attempt to resume normal operations.  However, the governor has retained a prior order that will keep bars, restaurants, theaters, etc. and other similar uses closed for a few more weeks.  For many, especially small business owners and their employees, re-opening means a chance to save their company or organization and/or get a paycheck to pay the rent and buy groceries.  But what does the push to “re-open the economy” really mean?

If you are in the construction business, your life, along with your employees, goes on pretty much as it has since the governor’s original shelter order went into effect at the end of March.  The construction industry, including suppliers and service providers, was declared “essential” under the governor’s original order and, thus, allowed construction companies and their employees to continue their work.  This was a big relief to the construction industry and, especially, the home construction industry given the acute and growing demand for housing of all types and price ranges.  There may have been suppliers or service providers who were affected by closure orders in other states or countries which, in turn, affected the construction industry in Minnesota but these impacts were limited from we have seen and heard.  But that isn’t the same as saying that the affected employees at these companies are universally happy to be at work given the real health risk that has influenced everyone’s thoughts and actions over the past two months.  In fact, the real question is whether the general public will react to the removal of shelter orders with a shrug and essentially ignore it.   After all, the coronavirus risk is still present, testing is not yet widely available, contact tracing is even less available and no vaccine is available for general inoculation.  Just because it’s possible to walk into a store doesn’t mean the public will feel safe in doing so, especially given the ongoing safety practices being recommended for businesses and organizations of all types.

In the face of this fact, a larger percentage of public and private organizations will have a very hard time convincing a skeptical public, whether employees, consultants, customers or world travelers, that it is safe to venture out and reengage the world.  After all, who wants to venture out to a restaurant to be served by a waiter wearing a mask keeping his or her “social” distance from you?  Plus, only a quarter to half of the available seating can be occupied (and for now likely will have to be outside the building, which is fine for a summer day, but not fine in December or in a rain storm).  For homebuyers, the opportunity to tour homes personally vs online will be challenging as both the potential buyer and the seller will be leery about exposing each other, respectively to a risk of infection.  At a minimum, those assisting with the sale of a home will need to take care that all surfaces likely to have been touched during a tour are sanitized—not good.

We all want to resume our lives in the most normal way possible.  But the honest truth is that until each of us feels safe in venturing out that sense of normalcy is a long way off.

Please Join Us
Join Peter Coyle on Thursday, May 21st at 3:30 PM for Bisnow’s Twin Cities Deep Dive: Projects in Progress webinar.  Peter will be joined by Blake Hastings, President of Oppidan, Anne Behrendt, CEO of Doran Companies and Mark Jepson, Executive Director and Managing Partner of Commercial Investment Properties to discuss “How Developers are Weathering the Storm and Completing Projects Amidst Uncertainty”.  Topics discussed will include:

  • What cost implications has the pandemic had on development projects?
  • What measures are developers taking to ensure the safety of their workers on construction sites?
  • How are developers managing investor relations and delayed timelines.
  • How are companies handling supply delays?
  • What will the Twin Cities real estate market look like after this pandemic?

Please click here to register: Twin Cities Deep Dive: Projects in Progress